SEO is often considered more of a “marketer’s thing” than a web developer’s area of expertise. But the truth is that developers do play a vital role in building an SEO friendly website. If SEO isn’t integrated from the time the site is getting built, it could struggle—or even fail entirely—to show up in the search results. While the technical skills required for web development are different from those needed for SEO, it helps to remember that both sets of skills are directed to achieve a common goal: A website that ranks and converts.
From maintaining speed optimization of the website to ensuring cross platform compatibility, there are a lot of technical aspects that go into building an SEO friendly website. Plus, SEO is a competitive and fast-moving space. This is why it’s important for web developers to stay on top of Google’s webmaster guidelines. It also helps to have an SEO checklist of critical elements before they go live on the site. To that end, here are four points that every developer must have in their SEO checklist.
A Mobile-Friendly website is no longer an option; it is a necessity. From a developer’s perspective, when creating a mobile friendly website, it’s important to determine whether the site complies with the standard development techniques using responsive CSS style sheet. Or, if you are using a subdomain for mobile website, then you should consider that it might make SEO a harder job. Sub domain is treated as different physical entity by Google and makes certain SEO tasks—such as link building—more difficult.
An easier, less resource-intensive and more effective method to create mobile website is to set the viewport meta tag. The viewport allows you to scale your website to the device and also define whether a user can zoom or not. Also, implementing Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is a great way to improve the performance and user experience of your mobile site.
Checking your site speed using Google’s Mobile-Friendly Testing tool is a good place to start.
2. Page Load Speed
Poor loading time is not just a major pet peeve for internet users, it can have serious impact on a site’s overall performance. Because it’s an important ranking factor, developers need to keep an eye on everything that can cause issues with the user experience and site speed. This includes eliminating common HTML errors, using well-optimized layouts, and better coding techniques.
Images used in web design are also a contributing factor. Compressing image files before they are uploaded is a common best practice and is an important step to prevent images from interfering with your site’s speed. You’d also want to make sure your server uses GZIP compression.
Also understand the importance of using advanced JPEGs and when to choose PNG8 or PNG24 for better optimization of the website and other assets on it. This ensures faster loading of site pages on both, mobile and desktop. With page speed soon to become a ranking factor in mobile search, you will have to pay more attention to these factors.
Use Google’s PageSpeed tool and site test tool by webpagetest.org to measure page speed and make improvements.
3. Pagination and Canonicalization
Well-executed canonicalization makes sure that every piece of content on the website is assigned with a unique URL. This process is done to bring greater authority to the website. It also prevents the risks of duplicate content penalty.
Pagination is used to split the content into multiple pages. It provides a series of direct links, which are usually found near the bottom of the page. Clicking over the numbered page links and forward/back icons assists visitors to efficiently navigate material for a more user-friendly experience. Intuitive pagination is a simple way to boost user experience, which ultimately improves SEO outcomes.
4. Robots.txt and Sitemap.xml
If your site isn’t performing well, Google isn’t the one to be blamed. It is absolutely critical on your part, as a developer, to send proper messages to search engines for better performance. For instance, if you’ve disallowed a Robots.txt file during development, it can prevent Google from crawling the site pages. So unless you want to block a page from search results, make sure to remove this directive before the website goes live.
Both, Robots.txt and Sitemap.xml files should be properly formatted and submitted to Google Search Console. Your SEO professional can take over from there to implement the next steps.
This is, by no means, a comprehensive list of things developers should check when building a site. But if you’re someone who hasn’t been implementing SEO best practices in your process, these four points will get you off to a good start.